I grew up in the materialistic 80's. I don’t remember much of it. Now I worry that I’m socially retarded in some way. I was a sheltered, isolated child, taught to believe that I was special, apart from the herd, and that I was only to do as they did if I chose to, or for my own safety, as in the traffic laws. As Feynman put it, or Feynman’s first wife: "What do you care what other people think?"
I do, however, care what other people, select other people, think of me; it’s too deeply ingrained. If I liked the teacher, I was always teacher’s pet, showing off the newly stain-free radiator, the great job I did on some thankless and irritating-but-not-strictly-necessary task. The trait has continued into this, my young adulthood, showing my boss the scrubbed mixer cord with a kindergarten brilliant smile.
When I think about this, I worry that I’m socially retarded in some way, seeking the approval of others. Then I look in the mirror, or show my new haircut to my mother. She was one of the people who taught me to do what I cared to do without worrying over how socially acceptable it was. She meant, of course, to behave myself, follow rules, be polite, don’t allow dangerous strangers to get too close, and dare to be smarter than the sheep. If everyone jumped off a cliff or used dangerous chemicals to make their hair a uniform frizzy damaged ugly, would you too?
Her strongest exception, of course, to my declaration of bisexuality, was "What will other people think?" She told me that there were some people she could name that would not speak to her ever again if they knew that I was queer. My reaction: Who cares what other people think; if they were really your friends, they’d still talk to you; Would you want to be friends with people that shallow?
The obsessive following of fads is surely a psychological disorder. Unfortunately, as it’s one that over 50% of the population seems to be prey to, I doubt it will ever catch on in the psych books.
One good thing about the cultural melting pot of the late ‘90's is that the social groups of teens diversified. You could be a prep, a skater, a G, a Goth, a jock, whatever -- and you’d still have a nice large peer group.
Ok, maybe that was just my high school.
The human monkey is still very much a pack animal. Not all human monkeys have grasped that their pack is inclusive of all human monkeys; they insist on secret signs, identifying scents and tribal markings. --the baggy pants, the khakis and hair butterflies--
--you can’t find old fashions in the stores anymore. I wear plain black usually in a defense of that. I look more goth/punk than anything else, but my clothes are nondescript, the cheap heavyweight cotton shorts at Sam’s Club.
I am a nonconformist, and this is my manifesto.
The crowd is not always right by virtue of majority. 50% of the population is stupider than the average person. Just because it was always done that way doesn’t make it right. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s right either. Test it on something who can’t sue you to make sure it’s not lethal, and run a twenty-year comparison study against the old way before adopting it as the New Perfect Thing.
Take care of the world. It’s your world, and nobody else is doing it.
I work for a Great Big Monster Corporation, and I follow the rules and buy their cheap heavy-duty cotton shorts and shirts because I can afford them, they aren’t The Fashion, and they hold up to my heavy-duty use. The Corporation has good rules for taking care of their people, and it is my job to make sure they follow them. I am irritating but not obnoxious about it; I am polite. I am valuable to the company and work very hard and own up to honest mistakes. I toe the line on the rules that are there for the protection of employees and customers. I wear the symbol of my non-standard religion prominently and politely, and smile at all customers regardless of sex, race, or past burning of my religious group by their religious group.
I keep myself informed on matters that matter to me. I check the validity of my information. I notice the not always subtle spin the media puts on my news, and wonder what the real story is. I am not afraid to admit that my opinion on all issues is based on the information I have gotten, and I am willing to admit that the source I have gotten it from may have been flawed, misinformed, fudged, not thoroughly studied, screwed in translation, deliberately and maliciously wrong, just plain stupid -- or right.
I have a good memory and I trust it. When someone else claims to be right while I know I am right on a matter of fact, not opinion, I ask them why they think it is so, and look it up for them. I am polite about this. Never suggest that they are wrong, or that they’re lying. Or maybe suggest it, but don’t say it. Exaggerating. Misremembering. Have the facts. Cite your sources, and their sources. Write it down; don’t expect to remember it right five years later.
Question Authority does not mean that Authority is always wrong, and it does not mean go up to Authority and say "You bastards are lying to me and are dead wrong!" Honey gets you more flies than vinegar, and horseshit gets you more than honey. Be polite. Say "Why do you say? Let me see your reasoning." If you have no coherent answer, come up with one before you speak, but make sure you do get to answer. Do study formal logic, and the enemy’s internal propaganda. Know your own mind. Know yourself. Admit your faults and do what you can with them. Some faults can be blessings in the right job.
Get enough sleep. Get enough of the correct nutrients. Be aware of all your dependancies, both emotional and physical, and do what you can to not make them a danger point.
When dealing with other religions, find the points that are compatible with yours and learn how they say it and how you say it. Stress that though there may be differences, there are important similiarities.
Don’t take shit from people who hurt your friends. Be prepared to defend those who can’t verbally, physically, psychologically. Team up.